Note: Steve Silberman, contributing science editor at Wired Magazine (and a fan of my blog – what an honor!), emailed me with a suggestion that I might want to review Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism with an offer to arrange a free review copy. Mr. Silberman was enthusiastic enough about this book that he named it his Book of the Year, so I happily agreed. Other than the review copy I received, I have not received any incentive or offer of blog promotion in exchange for my review.
Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, edited by Shannon Des Roches Rosa, Jennifer Byde Myers, Liz Ditz, Emily Willingham, and Carol Greenburg is aptly named. This is no Autism Spectrum Disorders for Dummies. Don’t misunderstand me. All of you are more than capable of reading and digesting this excellent tome. And you should. This book is the definitive work on autism for parents, service providers, teachers, and the general public. Everyone in the autism community should read it. Seriously.
Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism began as a website. A website dedicated to educating and dispelling myths about autism. They (the editors) willingly acknowledge their frustration with a growing suspicion of the role of science in uncovering the mysteries of ASD. These are a group of women who are accomplished writers, thinkers, activists, directors, scientists, and educational experts in their own right – who all happen to have been affected by autism, either through their families or their professions. Nope. No dummies here. These are individuals who have gone and done the dirty work of autism education by actually reading all of those scholarly and scientific articles, books, and theses containing large amounts of statistical data, genetic research, and other topics reminiscent of torture to an English education major such as myself. (I tip my hat to them and choose to dazzle the world with my ability to explicate metaphorical relationships instead.)
Yet what they chose to do in compiling Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism was not to overwhelm the average autism book reader with such difficult material. Instead, they went into the trenches of the autism community – special needs mommy bloggers, teachers, autistic individuals, writers, parents, nurses, therapists, and the like – and gathered the best articles they could find which represent the truth of autism. The truth – not media-hyped stereotypes or obscure snake-oil salesmen. Truth about what living with autism really means. About the nuts and bolts of what you as a parent need to know to help your ASD child navigate this world. About public perception, bullying, and grief. About finding joy, designing an IEP, sensory issues, and potty training. About cutting yourself some slack and avoiding being suckered. About preparing your will and finances for an adult child requiring lifelong care. About neurodiversity, the causes of autism, and getting the most out of therapy. About autism and puberty, mature autism, and medications. In short, there isn’t much about autism this book doesn’t eloquently and concisely address.
And, despite all of the information Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism provides, they still have selections that will move the heart – and often mind – of anyone affected by ASD. This is a book that will make you laugh, cry, nod your head, resolve to learn more, and question or verify your own convictions. Most importantly, they manage to do it with respect to readers who may not share the same views –and compassion for those whose grief is new and whose walk with autism is not as self-assured.
There are 74 articles in Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. Although all of them are excellent, these are the ones I bent the page corners on. (Shhh! Don’t tell the Librarian Police. They’ll make me turn in my librarian badge.):
“Bring Everyone Out” by Kyra Anderson
“What Now? Ten Tips for Families with a New Autism Diagnosis” by Squillo
“Getting to Know Your New Neighborhood: Reading Out and Building a Network” by Susan Walton
“Welcome to the Club” by Jess at Diary of a Mom
“On Autism and Self-Compassion” by Kristin Neff, PH.D
“An Open Letter to Special Needs Professionals” by Pia Prenevost
“Autism and Environmental Chemicals: A Call for Caution” by Emily Willingham
“Why My Child with Autism is Fully Vaccinated” by Shannon Des Roches Rosa
“The Autism Path” by JeanWinegardner
“Buying Hope” by Jennifer Byde Myers
“The Keeper: A Tale of Late-Childhood Asperger’s Diagnosis” by Mir Kamin
“The Crucial String” by Liane Kupferberg Carter
“Grieving the Dream and Living What Is” by Rachel Cohen-Rottenburg
“Shifting Focus: Eight Facts About Autism the Media Is Not Covering” by Holly Robinson Peete
“Autism Contradictions” by Jillsmo
“Creating a Special Education PTA” by Jennifer Byde Myers
Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is a must-have for any autism library. Not only is it jam-packed with valuable information, it is a well-edited compilation of very well-written pieces and includes a fantastic list of resources in the appendix. This is not the kind of book you read in one sitting. Because you can bounce around to any article, it makes an excellent bedside table book to be read in small chunks – allowing you an opportunity to savor, think about, and further research or care/therapy plans. Run right out and get this one.
Note: Proceeds of this book go to The Myers-Rosa Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to autism education, advocacy, and community support.
So, have any of you read Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism? If so, what are your thoughts?